Head Coverings - Two Spiritual Statements

Written by :   Sandeep Poonen Categories :   Woman
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Two spiritual statements that the church makes through head-coverings

Sandeep Poonen

"Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman...
Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.
But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.
If a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.
A man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God;
but the woman is the glory of man" (1 Cor.11:3-7).

We believe that the practice of head covering as described in 1 Corinthians 11:1-19 applies even today.

There are some physical acts that we as Christians perform as external expressions of an inward reality. For example, we prescribe adult baptism for all Christians as a way of demonstrating the inward reality of being born again. But even as Jesus clearly commanded baptism in His commission to the disciples in Matthew 28, the very first person He Himself welcomed into Paradise was someone who was never baptized. So the physical act of baptism is not essential for salvation. But we still nonetheless hold fast as essential the external practice of baptism because it has been commanded by Jesus, even though we recognize that Jesus Himself made an exception for this practice on occasion.

This underscores the point that while we want to follow God exactly and completely, it is the spiritual reality of our hearts that is by far, most important at the end of the day .

We hold our belief of head covering in quite the same way. We see two key spiritual virtues that we strive to ALWAYS keep in our hearts, but that we are asked to proclaim outwardly during our church services (in our detailed verse-by-verse study on this subject, we explain why we believe that the external practice of this is limited to the church service). And even while we proclaim them externally, may God never find that our church failed to LOUDLY proclaim these virtues with our hearts and attitudes most of all.

1. An exalted view of the glory of God in the church

The church is the gathering of God's people in God's house. Now since man and woman were both created in the image of God, we both have a glory that is associated with us (1 Cor 11:7, 15). But when we are in God's house, God asks His children to unequivocally proclaim that ALL glory goes to God, and so hide all the glory that they have in themselves.

God is passionate about keeping all His glory.Isaiah 42:8 - I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.And Isaiah 48:11 - For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.

In the practice of an external head covering, the church externally proclaims that God gets all the glory in His house. And as with all external actions, it must be outward manifestation of the inward reality.

God asks both men and women in the church to demonstrate this by two complementary acts:

a. The men keep their heads uncovered, joyfully proclaiming that we as humans give glory to God. Since men are called the glory of God (1 Cor 11:7), the men's uncovered heads demonstrate the church's desire to uncover all the glory of God that the devil seeks to hide and distort.

b. The women keep their heads covered, joyfully proclaiming that all glory associated with men and women are covered, thereby drawing full attention to the glory of God. The woman covers her head as a symbol of covering the glory of both men and women. She covers her head to symbolize covering the glory of the man (the woman is the glory of the man - 1 Corinthians 11:7), and covering the glory of the woman (her hair is a glory to her - 1 Corinthians 11:15).

So the men externally express (on behalf of the men and the women) the church's passionate longing for God to get all the glory - by keeping their heads uncovered. And the women externally express (on behalf of the men and the women) the church's passionate longing to hide ALL human glory in God's house - by keeping their heads covered.

2. An exalted view of the principle of submission in the church

This principle of submission is the other key reason Paul uses for the practice of head covering in the church ( 1 Cor 11:3 . But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ ).

Submission does not at all infer a difference in equality or value. God the Father is the head of Christ, but we know that both the Father and the Son Jesus Christ are both God and equal in worth .

The devil has done a masterful job of making submission a dirty word, even for Christians. However, we absolutely believe that submission is an essential virtue for every Christian and for every church.

Jesus is the Bridegroom of the church, and the life of Jesus is her example. And very few have seen that utter submission to the Father was CENTRAL to Jesus' life. He was fully God (and fully man), but He still submitted to the Father in everything and always denied His own will (John 5:19;John 6:38). This is the cross that Jesus bore daily for 33-1/2 years (Luke 9:23), and now asks us to follow Him.

We externally proclaim our allegiance to the principle of submission in our practice of head covering. We magnify our heart of submission to God's way – even in areas we might stand out, or come across as un-cool or old-fashioned.

We recognize that our understanding of head-covering is not popular in most Western cultures. Most people (and the young especially) want their Christianity to be "cool" and relevant. We are not primarily interested in this. We definitely don't go out of our way to stand out or be different for difference sake; we simply value submission to God's Word. And we are persuaded that the practice of head covering is prescribed in the Bible because we are being asked to hold fast to the glorious virtue of submission.

One note on cultural arguments to explain this passage: Many people try to understand this issue by describing the cultural intricacies of first century Corinth. But Paul clearly states that this theology is practiced by ALL New Testament churches (1 Cor 11:16). Now while there are divergent and incomplete viewpoints on first century Corinth culture, there is unanimous and irrefutable evidence of first century Jewish culture, because that culture has persisted till today. So we know that Jewish men traditionally covered their heads while praying to God. So if all "the churches of God" asked that men keep their heads uncovered (1 Cor 11:4), this was something clearly counter-cultural and uncomfortable for first century Jewish converts in the Jerusalem church. So we reject the idea that physical head coverings were being prescribed by Paul to identify things like marital status in Corinth. Paul is clearly asking BOTH men and women to do something. It is irrelevant that in some cultures the men might be inconvenienced (e.g. first century Jerusalem), while in others the women might be inconvenienced (e.g. most cultures today)..

With our position on this issue, we ONLY desire that the church makes a targeted stand against the devil and the agenda that he seeks to run this world by. We are not against a particular culture, and neither do we prefer one cultural view over another. Our only enemy is the devil.

And the devil is still deceiving us with the same lie that we can be like God - so it is okay to keep some glory for ourselves and we don't have to unequivocally submit to God.

- We are convinced that the devil schemes with all his craftiness to get us Christians to draw glory to ourselves through a myriad of ways - and it spreads even into our churches, and even as we claim with our lips that God get all the glory (there can be iniquity even in the holy things - Exodus 28:38).

- We are also convinced that the devil is deep at work within us, trying to get us to lessen our total submission to God. The devil would love for us to slyly remain in the driver-seat, paying lip-service to God and conceding to God in some matters, but maintaining our independence and lack of submission in the areas where God's will specifically inconveniences our self-will or our desire for man's approval.

So in our external practice of head covering as prescribed in 1 Corinthians 11:1-19, we as a church loudly and boldly proclaim our passionate commitment that God must get all the glory, and that we long to live our lives in total submission to Him.

When we cancel the LEAST of God's commandments and teach others to disobey it, God considers us to be the least in His kingdom. But when we obey the LEAST commandment and teach others to obey even that, then God considers us to be GREAT in His kingdom. (Matt.5:19).

May God attest that what we exhibit externally in the practice of physical head covering during the church service, is a true reflection of the state of our hearts.